Anne Loader McGee
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Thirteen-year-old Mallory Gilmartin glanced overhead

at the heavy gray clouds threatening to burst at any

moment, and pedaled her bicycle faster through the

shadowed woods toward home. We’ve only been here a

week, she thought, cramming the baseball cap down hard

on her head . . . a week, and already there’s a freaky storm

coming in.

Even though moving here meant being closer to

Grandma Aggie, Mallory knew it wouldn’t make up for

losing all her friends in Philadelphia and her position on

what was bound to be a championship baseball team. She

still thought it wasn’t fair that her recently divorced

mother, Lorna Gilmartin, had moved the family back to her

hometown of Cedar Creek, Virginia. Although bitterly objecting to

the move, it had done little to discourage her mother from

further disrupting their lives. And now that they were here,

Mallory was discovering Cedar Creek to be even more

boring than she had imagined. She just wanted to go back

to Philadelphia.

Absorbed with her angry thoughts, Mallory barely heard

the car approaching down the narrow lane to her left until

it was almost too late. As she jammed on her bicycle brakes,

the front wheel twisted sharply to one side and with a cry of

shock, she tumbled over the handlebars and into a ditch of

tangled weeds, the bicycle crashing to the ground beside


A moment later a maroon-colored sports car tore

through the lane’s overgrowth of hedge and screeched to a

stop. A sallow-faced man in a pinstriped suit, unaware of

Mallory lying in the ditch, glanced into the empty road

then sped off in the direction of town.

Mallory stared after the disappearing vehicle in disbelief.

“What a jerk,” she fumed. “He could easily have killed me!”

She grabbed her cap and shoved it back on her head,

making a mental note to add the incident to her ever

growing list of reasons why it was absolutely necessary to

return to Philadelphia: Dangerous drivers live in Cedar


Mallory stared up the lane toward the large, old mansion

sitting on the hill above. It had obviously once been

beautiful with its three floors, wraparound verandah,

rounded turrets, and leaded glass windows, but now it just

looked sad and lonely and in need of repair. So why,

Mallory wondered, would anyone be speeding away from

such a creepy-looking old house, especially since it was

supposed to be empty? With a sigh of bewilderment, she

brushed the leaves from her pants and yanked the bike back

onto the road, relieved to find it had little more than one

slightly bent spoke.

As Mallory pedaled furiously toward home, again trying

to beat the rain, she glanced down at her new blouse and

groaned. Smeared across the front were not only grass stains,

but blood from a scrape on her elbow. Mallory shook her

head. It seemed nothing had gone right since their move to

Virginia—nothing at all. A crash of thunder rumbled away

in the distance as if in agreement.

Rounding a bend Mallory pulled off the road and rode

up the path to a gray, stone cottage. It sat surrounded by

cedar trees and a narrow creek that wound through the

woods into town. As she headed for the porch, a gust of

wind suddenly whipped a pile of fallen leaves into the air. It

formed a swirling column that flew toward her like a

miniature tornado, growing larger and larger until it

hovered barely inches from her. Then, just as suddenly, the

wind stopped and the leaves drifted slowly back to the

ground. Mallory shook her head and made another note to

her list: Cedar Creek has weird weather.

She leaned her bike against the porch railing, climbed

the steps, and went in through the front door of their new

home. Knowing her brother Ron would be in the living

room, Mallory crept along the hallway hoping the

floorboards would not creak beneath her feet. Even

surrounded by packing boxes, Ron saw her sneak by.

“Fine time to get back,” he snapped. “Why did you stay

at Aggie’s so long? You were supposed to help me put this

stuff away.”

“Sorry,” Mallory mumbled.

“Right!” he said, with a shake of his head. Then he saw

her bleeding elbow. “Hey, what happened to you?”

In no mood for explanations, Mallory simply shrugged,

and continued on toward the bathroom to fix her wound.

At that moment the back door flew open and their mother,

Lorna Gilmartin, bustled into the kitchen. She was a tall,

pretty woman dressed in a blue silk dress and high-heeled

shoes. Clutching two overstuffed bags of groceries, she

elbowed on the overhead light and slammed the door shut

with her foot.

“I’m home!” she called out, “and just in time. That

storm is about to break any minute.”

Ron hurried into the kitchen, took the bags from his

mother, and set them on the table. “I’m starving,” he said,

and pulled out a large box of Zippy’s Southern Fried Chicken.

“Hmm,” he grunted, holding out the box as though on a

silver tray. “I see we’re dining in style again tonight.”

Lorna grinned and wrinkled her nose at her son. “Well,

young man, until we get completely moved in, you’re just

going to have to put up with all my gourmet meals, now

aren’t you?”

Lorna placed a carton of milk in the refrigerator, then

turned to ask. “I hope you and Mallory managed to get

more of that stuff unpacked—” She broke off, staring in

concern as her daughter appeared in the doorway. “Good

heavens, girl, I thought you were just going to visit your

grandmother. What happened?”

Wearing a fresh blouse and with her elbow wrapped in a

bandage, Mallory shrugged. “It’s nothing Mom, honest.”

“Well, guess what, young lady,” Lorna said, crossing her

arms and leaning back against the fridge. “I’ve got plenty of

time, so why don’t you just tell me all about this nothing.”

Ron grabbed the box of chicken and a stack of paper

plates. “I’d say sports-girl-of-the-year fell off her bike,” he

said with a grin, and headed for the dining room.

Mallory glared after her brother’s departing figure then

turned back to her mother. “I was riding home from

Aggie’s,” she began, “when I heard a car coming down that

old road leading up the hill—”

“Dark Hollow Lane,” interrupted her mother.

“Dark Hollow Lane? That’s the name of it? You’ve got

to be kidding, Mom, that’s so . . . Halloweenish!”

“It used to be one of the main entrances,” Lorna said,

dismissively. “Go on.”

“Well, I thought the man driving the car was going to

hit me, so I braked hard—” she paused. “And I ended up

falling in the ditch.”

“Mallory, that’s terrible!” Lorna hurried over and took

her daughter in her arms. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, honest. Just a few scratches.”

“Did the man stop to see if you were hurt or anything?”

“No.” Mallory replied, turning toward the dining room.

“And that’s what’s so unbelievable about this town, Mom.

It’s like he never even saw me.”

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